People, Environment

“Car-Free Tuesdays” Gaining Traction Nationwide

“Car-Free Tuesdays” Gaining Traction Nationwide“Car-Free Tuesdays” Gaining Traction Nationwide

When a group of environmentalists in Arak started a campaign in Markazi Province last December to encourage people to ditch their cars in favor of cleaner modes of transportation for just one day a week, they could have hardly thought that their idea would spread to every province in the country just nine months later. But it did.

Called “Car-Free Tuesdays”, the campaign was thought up by environmentalists fed up with the lack of action to curb air pollution to help raise awareness about the role of the general public in reducing air pollution.

Arak is one of Iran’s eight metropolises that suffers from air pollution and smog; the other being Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Ahvaz, Tabriz, Mashhad and Karaj.

“Various cities in every province have adopted the campaign, with varying levels of commitment,” said Mohammad Darvish, director of the Public Participation Office at the Department of Environment and a vocal supporter of the scheme, ISNA reported.

The department and its chief, Massoumeh Ebtekar, endorsed the scheme a month after its inception.

“We’re trying to spread the message of the campaign that change starts with us,” he said.

Labeling the campaign a social—not an environmental—movement, the official said it can help unite people under a common cause and even improve living standards.

  Isfahan Leading the Pack

Darvish, who has been an activist long before taking up a position at DOE, said one or two cities in every province have adopted the campaign, but heaped praise on Isfahan for leading the charge and commended Neyshabour in Khorasan Razavi Province and Marivan in Kurdestan Province for performing far above expectations in implementing the campaign’s goals.

Earlier this month, Isfahan became the first metropolis in Iran to enforce “Car-Free Tuesdays” by banning all vehicles from entering Charbagh Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. to promote the use of bicycles and encourage people to walk.

Similar campaigns have been successfully organized in developed countries. Last September, the French capital Paris enforced a “car-free day” that met with overwhelming support. The city also recorded a 40% drop in nitrogen oxide levels and a whopping 50% drop in noise pollution.

In October 2015, Oslo’s newly-elected city council said private cars will be banned from the center of the Norwegian capital by 2019, in what will be the first permanent restriction of its kind.

With 80,000 annual pollution-related deaths every year, Iran is one of the top five countries in terms of air pollution mortality, according to data from the World Health Organization.